China’s Li said that the EU is a partner, despite the tensions

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BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the European Union are more partners than competitors, the Chinese Prime minister Li Keqiang said on Monday, that the two parties have held their first official talks since ties soured over accusations that Beijing has the spread of misinformation about the new coronavirus.

The President of the european Council Charles Michel waves as he takes part in the virtual summit with the Chinese Prime minister Li Keqiang to Brussels, Belgium, on June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

President of the european Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council, Charles Michel – the EU’s chief executive and president held a video conference with Li, to be followed by another with the President Xi Jinping.

Li expressed optimism, according to state media the Chinese.

The European Union, which has called on Beijing systemic rival, has been negotiating an investment agreement with China since 2014, with the two sides have expressed a desire last year to conclude the negotiations by the year 2020.

EU officials say they want to see movement in areas such as automotive, biotechnology and micro-electronics and clarify the issues of state subsidies to forced transfers of technology. Brussels said that the EU markets are largely open, so it is for China to move more.

“What is necessary to get out of the impasse is the commitment at the highest political level and that is what today’s summit is expected to provide,” a European Commission official said.

Summits usually produce joint statements, but none is expected from the Monday meeting.

Li said China was willing to deepen the cooperation with the EU on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment.

SEPTEMBER MEETING POSTPONED

The EU officials, China has sought to pressure countries of the EU who criticize his management of the new coronavirus, using social media to spread false reports of European neglect of COVID-19 patients. Beijing has denied wrongdoing.

Even before the pandemic, the two business partners had a dispute, including over Hong Kong and the investment pact.

The EU has also faced U.S. pressure to take a tougher stance on China. The block is caught between the two powers who need both and who have a fear of alienating one or the other.

The governments of the EU expressed its “deep concern” about China, the security law of Hong Kong, which the democracy activists, diplomats and some companies say will endanger its semi-autonomous status and role as a global financial centre.

China’s parliament has reacted angrily on Saturday to a resolution by the european UNION to the assembly to protest against the security law.

Germany has postponed an EU leaders ‘ summit with Xi in September, citing the sars coronavirus, although diplomats said it was in part because of the impasse in the negotiations on the investment.

Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, Roxanne Liu and Se Young Lee in Beijing; Editing by Timothy Heritage

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